Facebook, Twitter criticised over failing to comply with consumer rules

Social media giants found to not have fully complied with changes sought by EU

Facebook and Twitter have only agreed to provide a dedicated e-mail address that national authorities can use to notify infringements

Facebook and Twitter have been rapped over the knuckles and face possible sanctions for failing to fully comply with changes sought by the European Commission to ensure they comply with EU consumer protection rules.

The social media companies, along with Google, were asked last year to amend their terms of service so that European consumers would not be forced to waive rights such as cancelling an online order, or lodging a complaint in Europe.

Following objections by consumers who have been targeted by scams and been subject to terms and conditions that do not respect EU consumer law, an enforcement order was issued in late 2016 compelling the three companies to abide by a number of requests, which also include a term that released the various platforms from having to identify sponsored content.

The companies all agreed to implement the changes sought by the end of the first quarter of 2018. However, while Google’s revised terms have been found to be in line with the requests made by consumer authorities, Facebook and Twitter have only partially addressed issues about their liability and about how users are informed of possible content removal or contract termination.


According to the European Commission, Google has set up a protocol, including deadlines to deal with the requests for its Google+ service. But, Facebook and Twitter have only agreed to provide a dedicated e-mail address that national authorities can use to notify infringements, without committing to deal with such requests within specific timeframes.

"As social media networks are used as advertising and commercial platforms, they must fully respect consumer rules. I am pleased that the enforcement of EU rules to protect consumers by national authorities is bearing fruit, as some companies are now making their platforms safer for consumers; however, it is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time," said Vera Jourvora, European Commissioner for Justice.

This confirms that we need a ‘New Deal for consumers’: EU consumer rules should be respected and if companies don’t comply, they should face sanctions,” she added.

The European Consumer Organisation said the failure of Facebook and Twitter to fully comply with the requests, highlighted the need for the Commission to take action in its upcoming legislative package dedicated to updating consumer law.

The organisation said the commission should ensure that all companies that do not respect EU law face “serious and deterrent sanctions,” including strong fines.

"The incentive for companies to comply with the law is rather low. These fines should not be symbolic but a real deterrent, going up to a percentage of the company's annual worldwide turnover," said Monique Goyens, head of the organisation.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist